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May is mental health awareness month and many people across the country are dealing with extra strain from COVID-19 over the past two years. Caregivers, especially, have demanding jobs that can be emotionally taxing.

John Rose is an at-home health care aide in Washington state. He said the need for support might come when folks least expect it.

“You don’t think you need it until after you need it,” said Rose. “It’s something that you don’t think about in advance. Usually when you hit some kind of a low point or you hit a wall and you realize I need something to move past this, or push through this.”

More than 800,000 Washingtonians provide care to someone, including family members and friends, according to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.

Merissa Clyde is Chief Operating Officer of the Service Employees International Union Local 775 Benefits Group, which provides benefits to more than 50,000 at-home caregivers in the state.

Clyde said studies find anywhere from 40% to 70% of caregivers nationwide have symptoms of depression. She said caregivers tend to be isolated and can perform all-consuming work.

“The pandemic in particular made this even worse for many caregivers,” said Clyde, “where the caregiver, not only were they worried about COVID symptoms and how they might affect their clients, but also for themselves.”

Clyde said it’s estimated Washington state will need 76,000 caregivers by 2030 to keep up with demand. She said it’s also a diverse profession so her group provides training and assistance in multiple languages.

One important support SEIU 775 Benefits Group provides is mindfulness training to help people identify and work with daily stressors. The exercise is shown to reduce depression and relive stress.

Clyde says her group also provides emotional support coaching through a phone app.

“It is aimed at really making sure that access to mental health and emotional health services is as easy as possible for caregivers,” said Clyde. “So that they can access those services from where they are, and really to try and reduce all of those barriers that a traditional medical system might have.”

Featured photo: By the end of the decade, Washington state needs to add more than 70,000 caregivers. (Satjawat/Adobe Stock)